Besides their animated hand gestures and occasional affiliation with the mob, Italians are known for the versatility of their delicious food. Naisan "Nathan" Wachob — owner and operator of Blu Basil Italian Restaurant — has a distinct affinity for the simplicity of Italian cuisine. Although Wachob went to school for engineering, his love for food, people and creativity overpowered his career-driven decisions. He has been affiliated with the food industry since he was 14 years old, when he started flipping burgers at McDonald's. From there, Wachob extensively climbed the food chain and when he was 21 years old became a franchisee for Subway. After selling his last Subway in 2009, Wachob opened Blu Basil and, to quote the words of Dean Martin, "that's amore."
Creative Loafing: You own an Italian restaurant; are you from a big Italian family?
Nathan Wachob: No, I am not of Italian decent. My father was born in Missouri and my mother was born in Iran. However, the reason I do love Italian food so much is that the majority of food you see today has been influenced in some way or another by Italian food. I also love the culture in parts of Italy where simple food, done correctly, is better than recipes that combine many different ingredients that you have no idea what they are or if you like them or not.
How did the name Blu Basil come to life?
I knew from the beginning that I wanted some type of herb or something that would hint at freshness in the name. Of course, basil is a very important herb in Italian foods, so when I was going online and searching words with basil, blue basil appeared. As I clicked on pictures and information of the plant, I found it to be very interesting. Though the real name of this herb is opal basil and it's primarily found in Africa, I thought it was a really cool plant. Thus, the name Blu Basil came about. We even had opal basil leaves on a lot of our dishes when we first opened and sometimes put them on our current plates. It's a very inconsistent herb, meaning it will wilt extremely fast.
If Gordon Ramsay ever came into your restaurant, do you think he would approve of how you run your establishment, or do you think he would give you a hard time?
I think for the most part he would approve. As far as some of the restaurants I have seen on his show, Kitchen Nightmares, we would not be a very fun episode to watch if we were ever on it. But I'm sure he would also have some pointers. At the same time, I think we can all learn from each other, and I may have a few pointers for his restaurants, too.